Happy Midsummer’s Day! We’re only a few days past the celebration of the summer solstice,
but I think the magical time of summer is a good time to talk about…
I’m always on the hunt for tidbits of research I can use in one of my stories, particularly Celtic myths and superstitions. Fairies, Fauns, Selkies, Goblins, Elves, these delightful creatures populate stories for children (fairy tales), but they weren’t all sweet Tinkerbells!
In Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, The fairy king, Oberon, and his henchman, Puck, spread a great deal of mischief among the human characters. Fairies could sicken the livestock, ruin the crops.
Worse, fairies were known to steal human children and substitute fairy offspring (changelings). Fairies, elves, and all their kin were the original paranormal villains. For a really good article on this subject, check out Fairy Scapegoats: A History of the Persecution of Changeling Children.
Then, as in present times, a notion, no matter how unsupported by logic or facts, could take hold, spread, and in some cases lead to persecutions.
Besides stealing human children, magical creatures sometimes influenced humans who engaged in witchcraft. Most people have heard of the Salem Witch Trials, but witch hunts weren’t limited to the Colonies. In sixteenth century Scotland thousands of people were tried for witchcraft and executed. King James VI of Scotland (later James I of England) became obsessed with witchcraft and wrote a treatise on the subject, Daemonologie, in 1597:
The fearefull aboundinge at this time in this countrie, of these detestable slaves of the Devill, the Witches or enchaunters, hath moved me (beloved reader) to dispatch in post, this following treatise of mine…
These beliefs persisted well past the sixteenth century. The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies, written in 1691 by Robert Kirk, and reissued in 1893 is
An Essay on The Nature and Actions of the Subterranean (and, for the most Part,) Invisible People, heretofioir going under the name of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies, or the lyke, among the Low-Country Scots, as they are described by those who have the Second Sight…
In an earlier post, I mentioned that Quarter Days were important for paying rent (and sometimes absconding without paying!). These rent-payment days were apparently important for supernatural creatures also. Mr. Kirk describes the Invisible People’s activities at Quarter Days:
They remove to other Lodgings at the Beginning of each Quarter of the Year, so traversing till Doomsday…Their chamaelion-lyke Bodies swim in the Air near the Earth with Bag and Bagadge; and at such revolution of Time, Seers, or Men of the Second Sight, (Faemales being seldome so qualified) have very terrifying Encounters with them, even on High Ways.
These men with the second sight understandably shunned quarterly travel and sought spiritual safeguards. They
thereby have made it a Custome to this Day among the Scottish-Irish to keep Church duely evry first Sunday of the Quarter to sene or hallow themselves, their Corns and Cattell, from the Shots and Stealth of these wandring Tribes; and many of these superstitious People will not be seen in Church againe till the nixt Quarter begin, as if no Duty were to be learned or done by them, but all the Use of Worship and Sermons were to save them from these Arrows that fly in the Dark.
Mr. Kirk was the seventh son of his father, and was thus “specially gifted.” I’m just delving into this book, but if you’re interested, click the link above and download a free copy from Googlebooks.
May your summer be happy, may you be safe from all the Fair Folk and Good People, and I’ll be back for another post at Michaelmas.
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons
Award-winning author Alina K. Field earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and German literature, but her true passion is the much happier world of romance fiction.
Award winning author Alina K. Field earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and German literature, but her true passion is the much happier world of romance fiction.
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